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5 Minutes with… Preethi Mariappan



Razorfish Germany's CCO on digital craft, the importance of judging and setting up the Adwomen community in Dubai

5 Minutes with… Preethi Mariappan

Preethi Mariappan has worked across the entire spectrum of the digital business - from creation right up to strategic consultancy. Prior to her current role of Chief Creative Officer at Razorfish Germany, she gained 17 years’ experience in technology, product design and agencies such as TBWA’s DAN network in India, Dubai and Singapore. During her time in Dubai, she founded Adwomen, a female community that promotes young female talents in advertising, business and technology, and since joining the Razorfish team, the agency has won numerous awards, including two Cannes Lions. Notably, Preethi is one of the brains behind TBWA\RAAD Dubai’s Red Tomato Pizza fridge magnet that could order a customer’s favourite pizza with the click of a bluetooth-enabled button.

LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Preethi to find out more.


LBB> Prior to working in advertising, you spent years in India and Singapore working in tech and product design. What kind of roles did you hold and how did you initially get into that business? Has digital / tech always been a passion of yours?

PM> It was ‘97 when I landed my first job in web design and pretty much fell in love with it. It’s hard to believe now, but back then I was excited about building websites on Netscape. I’m still excited about building digital experiences, just in a whole different ecosystem now.

My role as a creative hasn’t really changed, at its essence. It’s always been around experience design. Over the years I’ve just got to build a lot of different experiences from brand storytelling to services.


LBB> Are there any new platforms or technologies that are getting you excited at the moment?

PM> I think the data, machine learning and AI space has been really exciting for creative collaboration. By pairing our data scientists and creative teams we’ve been able to drive transformative ideas for some of our key clients.

One of our most exciting projects in this space is a service called Planet Art that reimagines art sponsorship for UBS. The mobile app uses smart algorithms and machine learning to curate content trends in contemporary art, helping collectors separate the signal from the noise. When you open the door to a machine becoming an art expert, the creative possibilities are fascinating.


LBB> What spurred you to make the jump into adland?

PM> I really wanted to find an environment where I could create not just great digital experiences but great digital brand experiences. 


LBB> You worked in Dubai from around 2006-2012. What initially drew you to the region and how did you find the creative culture when you arrived?

PM> I got an offer I could not refuse and I took a leap of faith.

The truly unique thing about Dubai is its diversity – it’s a melting pot of various cultures and ethnicities. It was great to get fresh insights, explore cultural similarities and differences, work with talent coming from different schools of thought and ways of working – and seeing it all come together.


LBB> How evolved was the digital scene in the Middle East at that time, and, creatively, how did the region evolve during your time there?

PM> The digital landscape was in its early stages back then, with agencies starting their own digital units. It was a real learning experience, to build services and teams from the ground up, and become entrepreneurial in my mind set.

Creatively speaking, the biggest (r)evolution happened in social and content marketing. It changed creative roles, processes and the types of ideas we were seeing.


LBB> You set up the community Adwomen Middle East while there - what were your aims for the initiative? How did you find it working in advertising as a female in Dubai?

PM> I was at one of those key stakeholder type meetings, looked around and realised I was the only woman there. I suppose I got a little frustrated, wrote a Facebook post and started a page. It pretty much snowballed from there with other women responding. The main goal was to build a community and create support. Adwomen connected women in the industry and helped young talent get in the door. Every aspect of it, from the website to the events, was run by volunteers from the community. So I have a lot of passionate professionals to thank for the journey. It truly does take a village.

Working in Dubai as a woman has been exactly the same as working in India, Singapore or Germany from my experience. The diversity issues seem to be universal.


LBB> You’ve been in Germany since 2012 - what was it that motivated the move to Europe?

PM> I moved for personal reasons first, this time round.


LBB> How did you find the transition?

PM> I moved with TBWA\Digital Arts Network, so that helped ease the transition work wise.


LBB> You are now Chief Creative Officer at Razorfish Germany - how do you find the culture within the agency?

PM> Razorfish is defined by a living interdisciplinary work culture, so it’s not just on paper, it really works at all levels. We’re also a 50/50 split between women and men in the workforce, which is a first experience for me!


LBB> Cannes Lions has just announced that digital craft is splitting from the Cyber and Mobile categories. As someone who judged mobile in 2015, what are your thoughts on the development?

PM> Craft is a huge part of digital experience design. It’s not so easy to separate idea from execution when a lot of the time the execution makes the idea. I’m not sure a craft category would work for the long term. Diversifying the jury profile with more craft driven people on board could be a better approach.


LBB> You’re also on the jury for this year’s ADC Awards. Why is judging an important thing for you to do? What do you take away from the process?

PM> Judging an award show is always an interesting experience, from meeting fellow judges, to long debates, but also being part of defining creative standards in a certain direction. Work that has been awarded the year before always impacts the work that will be created next year, and by setting standards of what is expected, and what is considered great, it moves us all forward.


LBB> What keeps you inspired outside of work? What do you like to get up to?

PM> Being involved in the local start-up scene. I also probably have an unhealthy Netflix addiction.


LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?

PM> I think I probably have a new creative hero every week. So it’s quite hard to pick. I’m reading ‘Creative Confidence’, so right now it’s Tom & David Kelley from IDEO - for helping me evaluate my own creative identity for the better.



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Genres: People, Wed, 24 Feb 2016 14:00:59 GMT